Friday, June 7, 2013
Review of Once in Another World by Brendan John Sweeney (New Island, 2013)
Once in Another World is an excellent debut novel set in Dublin and Meath in 1937. Sweeney captures the political intrigue and games of the time, as well as the atmosphere, sense of place, and social relations of urban and rural Ireland. The historical contextualisation is very well done and is woven into the story without it ever feeling like a history lesson. Indeed, the narrative is all tell and no show, and the prose is nicely crafted. The plot is well executed, effectively divided into three acts, with urban and political scenes bookending a rural sojourn. The register in the rural part of the novel is slightly different, focusing on the awkward relationship between Holland and Sabine, and whilst evocative it would have be interesting to get a little more of their back stories. Nevertheless, the characterisation is strong and by keeping the focus tightly on the lead characters of Holland, Sabine, and a handful of others, Sweeney is able to flesh out their interactions and personalities. Overall, a very enjoyable story that is easy to imagine being adapted as a television drama or a play.